Many people use the term “annulment” interchangeably with “divorce,” but in reality, the two have different legal meanings in Texas. While divorce is the best option for many people, you may want to pursue an annulment if you qualify for one. It’s important for you to understand both the requirements and consequences of obtaining an annulment. No matter your family law situation, Youngberg Law Firm is here to help.
Annulment Versus Divorce
While a divorce legally dissolves a marriage, an annulment treats it as though it never happened. In the eyes of the law, an annulled marriage is void. There are several reasons you can have a marriage annulled, but the basis of your annulment must have existed when the marriage took place. The specific grounds for which you can seek an annulment in Texas are:
- Underage marriage. If one of the parties to the marriage is under the age of 14, the marriage can be annulled. Texas law allows someone over age 16 but under age 18 to marry with parental consent. If this necessary consent was lacking, the marriage can be annulled.
- Bigamy. The law does not allow bigamy. If one party to the marriage already has a spouse, it is void and can be annulled.
- Consanguinity. This means the parties are too closely related, such as a parent, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, nephew, or niece.
- Waiting period violation. If the marriage took place within 72 hours of the license being issued, it can be annulled. This requires a lawsuit to be brought within 30 days of the date of marriage.
- Marriage under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The capacity to consent is required for a valid marriage. If one party was drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time of the marriage, it may be invalid.
- Mental incapacity. Similarly, if a party lacked capacity because of a mental defect or disease, an annulment may be granted.
- Concealed divorce. If one spouse was divorced less than 30 days before the new marriage, and the other (new) spouse didn’t know about it, the marriage can be annulled.
- Impotency. An annulment may be granted if either party is permanently impotent (for physical or mental reasons), and the other party didn’t know about it at the time of marriage.
- Fraud, duress, or force. Tricking, threatening, or otherwise coercing someone to enter into a marriage renders it void, and the aggrieved party can obtain an annulment.
Void Versus Voidable Marriages
Marriages involving bigamy or consanguinity are considered void. This means the law will never recognize them as valid, and they are automatically invalid from the very beginning. The other grounds listed above render marriages voidable. Voidable means that one of the parties can take legal action to have the marriage declared void (annulled), but if no action is taken, the marriage will continue. A voidable marriage is valid provided no one has it annulled.
Steps To Annulling Your Marriage
Depending on the grounds you are alleging for your annulment, time may be of the essence. For instance, in the case of a parent discovering an underage marriage, they have 90 days to file for an annulment. If the underage party turns 18, the parent can’t file.
You also need to act quickly if you allege that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You cannot get married while intoxicated or high, live with your spouse for a while, and then decide to get an annulment. Again, time is of the essence, so speak with an experienced Texas family law attorney right away.
Also, one of the spouses must live in Texas, or the marriage must have taken place in Texas. Assuming this is true and you meet the other requirements above, the annulment process begins by filing a petition. You must allege your grounds and provide evidence.
After the petition is filed, it must be properly served on the other party. Getting service right the first time is critical so you don’t lose any time annulling the marriage. The other party has 20 days to answer the petition. If he or she does not, the petitioner can obtain a default annulment. The party may answer the petition and agree to sign a Decree of Annulment. Or they can fight the petition.
If the other party contests the annulment or the judge is skeptical of why it is being sought, you may need to present your evidence in court. Having a knowledgeable Texas family law attorney is essential to make sure your petition is filed correctly and supported with valid evidence.
Consequences Of An Annulment
While you have to wait 60 days for a divorce in Texas, an annulment can be obtained immediately. If the marriage is annulled, it’s as if it never happened. This means that a party is allowed to claim that he or she was never married in the first place.It also means that the parties never created any community property that would need to be divided in the marriage, sidestepping many issues that would need to be handled in a divorce action. You should take quick action if you believe the marriage was invalid, but you should also understand the consequences. An annulment is permanent and, once granted, cannot be reversed.
Contact A Denton County Attorney
Even if you believe you have solid grounds for an annulment, you must follow all procedural requirements in filing your petition. The court has to be convinced that you have valid legal reasons for annulling the marriage. The other party may also refuse to consent to the annulment and decide instead to fight you in court.
There’s a lot on the line when it comes to annulling your marriage. We want you to understand what an annulment means, and take the steps to help you obtain one. Give Youngberg Law Firm a call today to get started.